Owners of Group Therapy Bike Tours, Katie and Drew Philippi, and general manager Sofia Gibson post in front of the skate shack in the Railyard for Skate the Yard.
(From left to right) Group Therapy Bike Tour owners Katie and Drew Philippi and general manager Sofia Gibson pose in front of the skate shack at Skate the Yard on Sept. 13 in Lincoln. Photo by Samantha Bernt

Skate the Yard brings nostalgia, roller skating to downtown Lincoln

They say childhood memories shape your future, which is exactly what happened for Drew Philippi.

Drew Philippi, a Lincoln native and co-owner of Group Therapy Bike Tours with his wife Katie, was having a nostalgic conversation with a friend when all of his memories of growing up at the roller rink flooded back.

“I had a lot of memories from my earlier formative years of becoming a teenager where I spent a bunch of time at Holiday Skate World,” he said. “I’m one of those people that doesn’t remember a tremendous amount of my childhood, but I have specific memories of just growing up in that atmosphere.”

Sad that there were no rinks left in Lincoln to roller skate, Drew Philippi decided he wanted to bring a rink back himself.

“It started as kind of a joke,” he said. 

One night at 11:30 p.m. in the midst of a conversation about a potential roller rink, Drew Philippi posted on the Group Therapy Bike Tours Facebook page to share his idea and see if there would be any interest in it.

He tagged the Railyard in the post to say he thought it would be a cool way to use the space, and even paid $100 to boost the post on Facebook to attract more attention to it.

The post blew up with almost 100 shares and more than 300 likes. Chris Gorman, Director of Sports and Entertainment Marketing for Hurrdat, the company that manages the Railyard, finally reached out and set the idea into motion.

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Sena Kranz of Lincoln roller skates at Group Therapy’s Skate the Yard in the Railyard on Sept. 13.

“They got in contact with me about three weeks later and said their entire team loved the idea,” he said. “Then I got online and started searching for skates.”

He looked up roller skate auctions to see if he could find skates in bulk for less of a hefty price tag.

“I found 360 pairs of skates that were being auctioned off from a roller skate business that closed down in Virginia,” he said. “I called the auctioneer and asked if I could buy them all, but he told me I had to bid on each pair of skates individually.”

After about an hour and a half of bidding, the Philippis had bought all 360 pairs of skates, but there was a catch.

“I read the fine print and found out I had 48 hours to get to Virginia and pick them up,” he said. “So I booked a one-way ticket to Roanoke, Va. for 7:30 a.m. the next morning, got there at 3 p.m. and rented a Penske truck then drove 19 hours back with all the skates.”

With skates in hand, Drew and Katie Philippi and Sofia Gibson, the general manager of Group Therapy, started planning Skate the Yard

The event officially started on Aug. 6 and is held at the Railyard three days a week from 4 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. 

Phoenix Goerkie, Nash and Jules Philippi and Sena Kranz of Lincoln, Neb., skate around the Railyard with bubbles and balloons at Skate the Yard on Sept. 13 in Lincoln. Skate the Yard is held every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Gibson said weekdays appeal to adults, while weekends are more popular with families, but all are welcome. The schedule includes theme skates – a roller-rink staple – like neon, throwback and Jimmy Buffett. Sunday skates feature children-friendly themes like Disney or superheroes.

“During the week, adults can grab drinks and food from the bars around the Railyard and the kids can skate,” Gibson said. “It’s a really cool environment on those nights.”

Katie Philippi said even though the idea for Skate the Yard didn’t come about due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has definitely helped give the Lincoln community something else to do.

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The skate shack at Skate the Yard is where people can receive wristbands and rent skates in the Railyard.

“During this time, where there hasn’t really been anything going on and we needed some more outdoor activities, so it was just one of those random ideas that worked out,” she said.

Gibson said they have plans to expand Skate the Yard with skate lessons and private parties, the first of which was held for Philippi’s son on Sunday, Sept. 13. They plan to bring Skate the Yard back in the spring after ice skating takes over the Railyard in November. 

Katie said the spur of the moment idea is what Group Therapy is all about.

“We have a lot of fun just doing risky and weird stuff, and we really like providing entertainment for Lincoln,” she said.

Senior journalism major from Fremont, Neb.